Optimizing Body Composition for Jiu-Jitsu Performance
Jiu-Jitsu is a weight-class sport that requires strength and power along with endurance and stamina. The year-round nature of fighting seasons and the demands of the sport means competitors need to optimize body composition with both performance and health in mind. Competitors also need to take an individualized approach to determining body composition goals. This means taking into consideration quality of life, performance, energy, goals and competition schedule when deciding on target metrics.
The Right Way to Lose Weight
There is a right way and a wrong way to approach weight loss. Let’s start with four smart, “right-way” tips. First, lose weight at the right time. When you create a calorie deficit, you do not get as much training benefit. Thus, you will want to lose weight at a time when your training is less focused and intense. If you have an off-season or down time in your year, pick that time to focus on weight loss. Second, lose weight slowly. If you are too aggressive in how much weight you want to lose at a time, you will slow your metabolism down. This will make it harder to lose weight and sustain that loss. Third, it makes sense to increase protein slightly during times of weight loss to help preserve muscle mass. Aim to eat up to 2.0 grams of lean protein per kilogram body weight (going beyond that quantity is useless so don’t overdo it). Space the protein you are consuming evenly across six smaller meals (this is also called “Protein Pacing”). Protein pacing is helpful because it increases the thermic effect of food and results in greater weight loss according to recent studies. Finally, establish a point of accountability to achieve your goals. Apps like My Fitness Pal and Chronometer can help you to track your food and provide a picture of what you are really consuming. Marune is another training log, where you can record metrics like weight and body composition in the notes section and weigh-in feature.
The Wrong Way to Lose Weight
I frequently see athletes going about weight loss is less than smart ways. Here are a few common pitfalls. Jumping on the fad diet bandwagon is a mistake I see all the time. People go all in and follow a diet to a T until they don’t. Typically, people gain more weight than they lost [on said diet] when they can’t muscle the new way of eating anymore. Save yourself the trouble and find a healthy, sustainable way of eating that will result in gradual, sustainable weight-loss.
I also see people become too aggressive with their body fat goals. They restrict foods, eliminate food groups and become pretty darn miserable. Simply put, aiming for a number that is too low will lead to injury, burnout and illness. The willpower muscle can only handle so much regardless of mental strength and toughness. If you are expending all of your energy on an unrealistic body fat goal, you are taking away energy from both your training and your life. BE REASONABLE.
The last pitfall I commonly see in Jiu-Jitsu is what I like to call the procrastination technique. Basically, players plan to lose ridiculous amounts of weight right before a tournament through dehydration. They run in trash bags, sit in steam rooms and do other dumb stuff right before a weigh-in. If this is your strategy, you will DEFINITELY hinder your performance. Remember that losing just 2-3% of body weight from dehydration has been known to hurt aerobic capacity. In addition, it can take 24-48 hours to fully rehydrate after you have lost a significant amount of water weight.
Body composition goals and weight loss strategies are complicated. You want ensure that you lose weight correctly. If you are unsure about what your body composition targets should be and how to properly lose body fat, consult with a Registered Dietitian, who specializes in sports. Hiring this type of professional can provide a point of accountability in addition to ensuring you create a smart weight loss strategy. Use BJJ training apps like Marune to help you track your weight progress as you train. Remember, there is a right way to lose weight and a wrong way. Don’t waste time or energy running down the wrong weight loss path.